Thursday, April 22, 2021

Weaponizing identity and "screw you compassion"

 "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining." 

"THANK YOU!" was my response when I heard that. There were three of us in the room. Piss/rain  was the second person's response to the bullshit  the third was laying down over being challenged about the rotten thing he'd done.  After a lifetime of dealing with con men, hustlers, liars, sociopaths, manipulators, addicts, and thieves, you might say I've had more than my fair share of being lied to and people trying to manipulate me to their advantage. So that saying came both as breath of fresh air and great way to communicate, "I know what you're doing, so knock it off."

While I've encountered all kinds of strategies it should be noted, there's a rising tide of "You have to accept someone because of a 'label' and if you don't you're a horrible person."

Ummm. No. No I don't.

Not only because I'm not in the habit of ignoring someone's bad behavior (especially when it's aimed at me), but trying to tell me— that to be a good person— I have to put up with piss/rain situation, doesn't go over too well with me. I especially mean this when such demands are backed up with implied or stated threats of what will happen if I don't drink that particular Kool-Aid. Why do I say that? Too many times I've seen the 'logic' of "If you don't agree with my grandiose claims then you're a bad person" used as a justification to attack. An attack that comes not just with a strong a sense of self-righteousness, but complete moral superiority. (Think the Blues Brothers but instead of saying "We're on a mission from God," saying "We're on a mission from identity politics.")

With that in mind, I'd like to present the meme that triggered the very long analysis that follows. An analysis that shows why a label does not equal a free pass. (No matter how hard someone tries to argue that it does.)

Some background. The woman who posted it is A) well liked. B) Has children with various sexual identities and C) thought it was a "Live and let live" message.

Other people didn't see it that way.

I was one of them. I didn't just see it as a "Oh that's just rain on your back" strategy, but also a deliberate propaganda piece. Something that exploited the idea of "live and let live" to the detriment of those who believe it and gave advantage to those with predatory agendas through exploiting the "live and let live" idea. Most of all I saw it as a way to shut down discussion, not just about various subjects, but also forced silence about problems, misconduct and other issues that cause negative reactions.

A very long and intense argument ensued between people who saw it as "a noble call for tolerance and compassion" and those who saw it as an attack strategy disguised as 'a noble call for tolerance and compassion.'  After a while it became clear who on the "noble call for tolerance and compassion" side actually felt that way and who was trying to protect a propaganda strategy hiding behind 'a noble call for tolerance and compassion.'

You should know that while I do agree with the ideas of tolerance, live and let live, and not labeling people as an excuse for misconduct—what sets me apart from most is— I consider that to be a two-way street. 

Putting that into the vernacular of my youth, "If you want tolerance, respect, and non-aggression don't fuck other people over."

While the street version is way shorter, what follows is break down of all the ways (current) calls for tolerance and compassion are being weaponized to not only pressure you into not standing up for yourself, but to actively screw you over— because you are compassionate.


Lemme see if I can explain this from another angle. Sorry for the length, but it's a deep idea.
Let's start with "Live and let live" is a good, everyday, working paradigm for getting along in modern society. If followed, it lets people take care of their business and gives them opportunity to fulfill their needs. Not necessarily their wants, but their needs. (That distinction is important.)
Unfortunately a lot of people fall down on that basic concept. Not just the 'live and let live,' but take care of your business and try to get along. Their version is more "I get to do what I want and screw you."
Often this falling has it's roots in putting wants before getting needs. Prioritizing our wants can push us into problematic behavior. Again—often— this behavior can put us into conflict with others—especially when said behavior infringes, challenges, or bothers others.
The above statements are fundamental, neutral and apply to a wide spectrum of people and circumstances. In other words, I don't want to hear 'whataboutism' to argue and prove me wrong—especially because most of those 'what abouts' are next level and ignore the basics I just laid out. In light of what I'm about to say next, I particularly don't want to hear stories about "I wasn't doing anything and I was targeted because I'm _____."
Humans have certain patterns of thoughts/behavior that we don't subjectively recognize in ourselves, but can easily spot when others do it —especially when it comes to status and feelings. Take for example insult and displaying contempt. We're hypersensitive to it being done to us, but when we do it to others, it's always for a good reason—if we even realize that we're doing it. Another important aspect is how quickly we 'forget' that we just did it. Although rationalizing it away is also a common behavior when we can't convincingly pretend we didn't do it.
I tell you this because —while you can be targeted at near 'randomness' because someone is looking for an excuse to go off and you fit a pet peeve— a VAST majority (as in over 85%) of the conflicts we get involved in are based on behavior. That includes YOUR behavior.
To half-quote Peyton Quinn did you insult, threaten, challenge, or command someone? (You can do this with nothing more than an eye roll, a contemptuous expression and tongue click.) Behavior more than any particular identifier is what is going to paint a target on your chest.
This is why any claim or story of "Someone came after me for no reason" or "Someone came after me because I'm _____ (insert identifier)" needs to be taken not with a grain, but an entire salt lick. Because I'll bet dollars to doughnuts, that there was some kind of insult or challenge—even if it was just telling as selfish and pushy person "no." Which usually, it's a whole lot more than that. (As in the difference between a firm 'no' and 'fuck you.') Basically we're really good at spotting wrongs done to us, but we're bad at both recognizing or admitting the wrongs we do to others. That HAS to be factored in anytime someone is telling a story about how they were wronged—especially when that wrong is being laid at the alter of a label.
There's also something else. Certain clusters of behaviors and attitudes are known indicators of trouble. You don't know how it will manifest, but sooner or later things will go off the rails with someone who has them. You can deny this. You can be as open-minded and accepting as you want, but —as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow—someone with those traits WILL manifest chaos in your life. Also, as long as they are in your life, odds are it's going to be a repeating pattern. (A good argument can be made that it's because they will continually put their wants above everything else.) After people have experience with being burned by those with these clusters, they become wary of letting other people who have them into their lives.  (It's called postjudice.)
Things become really problematic when we sweep all of this aside and blame bias against particular identifier as the cause of negative results. You should know a serious red flag is when someone tells you you HAVE to sweep everything else aside and bow down to the power of the label (or risk being labeled a 'bad person' if you don't.)
Also there's something else you should know. When a group takes on an identity and has
* accepting certain beliefs
* a history/mythology
* encourages/accepts certain behaviors
as a requirement of 'membership' you've set the stage for conflict with other 'groups.' This primarily because identity groups have to have 'villains' in their narrative. This is an even stronger unifier than shared customs. If a group labels you as a 'bad person' or a member of a villain group, that paints a target on your chest—no matter how loudly members of the first group claim it doesn't.

What I've spoken of is mostly background and applies to people in general. But it's necessary information for what I'm about to say next.
Now I'm going to address why that meme is actually far, far away from expressing the sentiment of 'live and let live.' But first I would like to point something out
Someone rhetorically asked
>>So how would you word it in a way that says you have the right to feel however you feel, but you do not have the right to violate other people's rights over it,...
My response
>Off the top of my head I'd say...
you have the right to feel however you feel, but you do not have the right to violate other people's rights over it (period, not a comma).
>You might recognize the wording. That's not pointing fingers, claiming special privileges, or promoting a >victimhood/oppressor narrative.
(The reason for the period not comma comment was she bundled in lawmaking which is not only a separate issue but muddles this issue.)
Her words pretty well sum up a neutral, live and let live attitude. (Yay her.) It applies equally to everyone without any identifiers, blame, power maneuvering, or identity politics/narrative.
That is where the original meme not only fell down hard, but high dived into an empty pool. And for several reasons.
First, because it identifies specific 'victims' and paints specific 'villains' as victimizers. Whether you call them catch phrases/dog whistles/ slogans/ buzzwords, certain words/terms are attached to particular narratives. Their very use brings up a trainload of assumptions, associations and 'baggage.' This is a conditioned response and it is NOT from the rational part of your brain. (So don't try to tell me it doesn't happen because YOU 'don't do it.' If you're human you do it.)
Second, because those categories are gross over-generalizations
Third, because not everyone in said identity groups are angels, nor are they all demons
Fourth it puts an onus of behaviors on one group about behavior, but doesn't do the same to the 'victim' groups.
Fifth, by implication it glosses over misconduct from said 'victims' that causes negative reactions.
Sixth, again more by implication and also a starting premise, it blames others for having a negative reaction to behaviors.
Seventh, instead of acknowledging that unwanted behavior has an affect on negative reaction, it espouses a monolithic causation as the source of these results.
Eighth, this monolithic causation is more a matter of 'faith' and belief than a clearly identified and demonstrable existing condition. (If you believe, it's a self-evident truth, but to people outside your faith, not so much.)
Ninth, and this one is real hard for true believers to acknowledge, blaming others for their bias against your identity group often is used as an excuse to attack others. (Those on your side are just as capable of hatred, oppression, aggression, and excess as those you hate for those exact behaviors.)
Tenth, as was pointed out —and then deleted— that meme 'triggered' a lot of people who have experience being attacked in such a manner. I'll add that those attacks often came under the pretense of compassion and 'live and let live.'  (Maybe it's time to look at the ninth point again.)
Eleventh, that meme was chock-full of identifiers and narrative-related terminology relating to victimhood. These are redflags that it's not an honest message, but propaganda.

Twelve, it has been argued that because it wasn't explicit in naming who it was aimed at, those who disagreed were reading too much into it. I'll point you back to point eleven before stating there is no chance it wasn't deliberate.  One narrative-phrase maybe. Two is shaky. But when you get that many —up to and including the Rainbow Flag border—claiming it was the reader's problem is pissing down someone's back and telling them it's raining.
Finally I recently posted "Beware those who dismiss out of hand that their cherished ideals can be weaponized."
So yeah, some people are going to see the meme in a positive sense because on the surface they think it promotes ideas they believe. More than that it reconfirms what they believe. But to those who have been painted as designated villain, they have stable data about this sort of manipulation and attack strategy.
And guess what folks. Anger over mistreatment has become a two way street.
But let's take a closer look at using a label as a free pass—especially when that label is part of a  "We've been victimized because we're _______"  strategy. Make no mistake, it is a strategy. One that is often used to get over on you.

When you look at all the behaviors that cause conflict and negative reactions, it is usually a cornucopia. Lots and lots of little —and often not so little— things. That's why it's such a red flag when someone tries to claim there's a monolithic causation behind what's happening.
"You only saying that because, I'm ______"
"No, I'm saying that because you're an asshole. You being _____ has nothing to do with it, but you using it as an excuse just makes you a bigger asshole."
Yeah, that's a conversation I've had on many occasion when it was my job to tell people "no." It's also a conversation I've had on a number of times when I was in management. Speaking with others in similar positions, I've found that is an all too common experience. Pretty much the only things that changes are the intensity and how the situation is handled.
People should not get a free pass over their bad behavior because of a label. Or because of a narrative of past victimization. But that has become de rigueur. It has in fact, become a powerful weapon of intimidation and harassment against both people AND businesses.
Take for example a co-worker of my daughter. He was a terrible, lazy and unreliable employee that everyone complained to management about. (They were getting saddled with his workload.) Management did nothing except continue to shove his workload onto everyone else—and they were understaffed anyway. Nor did management talk to him or try to improve conditions. It was obviously they'd chosen this course of action because of his skin color. When finally his behavior became egregious enough that the store manager did explain that he had to show up and on time or he would be terminated (this was done in front of witnesses) he physically attacked her. Yes he was fired, the cops called, he was informed he wasn't allowed in the store again (property rights). And the icing on the cake? He not only tried to sue, but he went to the state employment office and filed a discrimination complaint against the company.
I have knowledge and experience of incidents like this going back forty years. That's why it's so annoying when people deny that identity has been weaponized on a grander scale than just personal incredulity. We are being told to dismiss every other factor and that the only thing that matters is that label. More specifically that the reason there were negative results is oppression and hatred against that label.

Another version is when they try to tell you stories of wrongs done to them because of their preferred label. Those stories very seldom include details that would undermine the claim that they were fired, evicted, turned down, etc., because they were __________.

Uhhh no. Not only not buying it, but quit trying to piss down my back and tell me it's raining.
This especially when it moves into the realm of outright propaganda. Personally part of why this meme made me growly is —whether you can see it or not—is it seems innocuous on the surface, but it is a well crafted DARVO* weapon. That goes beyond just an individual trying to get over on you and into a whole different field. 

* Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender.


  1. I'm so glad to see you posting here again, Marc. It's late, so I haven't read much beyond that nails-on-the-chalkboard meme (yet), and I trust this is going off-piste from where your post was going, but I just thought I'd point something out that stood out to me like a sore thumb.

    Tell me if the following doesn't vibrate in harmony with that meme (it's talking about parents/children, but the result is the same):

    "This is what the empathy-free parent wanted. This is a person who will hurt others and sleep like a baby afterwards. This is the parent’s monster to turn loose on society, in whose triumphs the empathy-free parent will delight. ***And the parent will expect everyone to admire the child.*** (emphasis mine)

    Deliberately, if unconsciously, warping a child’s personality so he cannot possibly learn to love, care or share is definitely a form of abuse. This is never an act of ignorance: the parent may not understand what he is doing, precisely, but he is always doing it for himself, without genuine concern for the child’s well-being. Don’t confuse this careful grooming with parenting styles that perhaps go overboard on encouraging high self-esteem or lavishing a child with material things: those upbringings may result in arrogant adults or adults with above-average entitlement. But it takes a special sort of training to produce a rapist."

    That was a follow-up to this excellent article:

    I'm not sure how many would have made the leap from that meme to the quote above, but as the child of a woman who tried her damndest to literally raise a rapist - and by extension the kind of decayed society we're living through currently, it all tracks in my opinion.

    This relates in so many ways to one of your last posts on here about female violence - not sure if anyone else will have picked up on that.

    Of course, being a feminist website, the author of that post got it wrong by exclusively using the pronoun 'he'. This type of thing is exactly typical of female violence. The meme is a perfect representation of female violence too - at least in my experience. And I've experienced some pretty horrific violence by females. But it's aaallll wrapped up in soft, seemingly squishy platitudes like the meme you quoted. It operates like a Rorschach test or one of those tests for colour-blindness: those who can see it, see it. Those who can't, don't. Or won't (not sure which is more accurate.) It's the balance of people who don't/won't see, and their INSISTENCE that 'their truth' is correct, that gives it both power and license. Free reign.

    Anyone notice how the ringleaders - the ones calling for actual violence while using the phraseology widely acknowledged to be the first steps towards genocide - are almost all women?

    The whole area of female violence is vast and unexplored by most in the 'violence' industry (in any industry, truth be told). Not sure exactly why that is, but it's an uncomfortable truth that I've learned I need to live with.

    My apologies if this is a radical side-track, and for commenting before finishing your article, but I felt the need to add that into the mix.

  2. *"rein". But come to think of it, reign works too.